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Red Allen: “Wild Man Blues” and “Rosetta”

The list of legendary trumpet players from the New Orleans area doesn’t begin or end with Louis Armstrong. Indeed, the list essentially is endless.

Red Allen is a relatively early — and truly great — member of that group. Here is the beginning of his profile at Red Hot Jazz Archives:

Trumpet player, Henry “Red” Allen Jr. was the son of Henry Allen who was the leader of the Allen Brass Band of Algiers, Louisiana. Algiers is directly across the Mississippi River from New Orleans. As a teenager he played in his father’s band, with George Lewis, the Excelsior Band and with the Sam Morgan Band. In 1926 he left New Orleans to play with Sidney Desvigne’s Southern Syncopaters on the riverboat Island Queen which ran between St. Louis and Cincinnati. In 1927 he joined King Oliver’s Dixie Syncopators while they were on tour in St. Louis. The tour didn’t go well for Oliver, and the band kind of fell to pieces in New York, but Red made his first recordings while there with Clarence Williams. Allen returned to New Orleans and played with Fats Pichon and then joined Fate Marable on the Strekfus riverboat Capitol where he would remain until 1928. After being offered a Victor recording contract and jobs by both Duke Ellington and Luis Russell, he returned to New York. (Continue Reading…)

Wikipedia points out that Allen is said to be the first to incorporate Armstrong’s revolutionary influences. The sense I get is that he was a bit unfairly obscured by Pops’ long shadow.

Above is a fabulous version of a Wild Man Blues, which seems to owe a lot to St. James Infirmary. It is interesting because of the early television treatment and host John Crosby’s comments. The show, called The Sound of Jazz, aired on CBS in 1957. It was part of a series called The Seven Lively Arts. An LP was released of the performances in the jazz segment.

Folks just interested in the music should skip to the 3:00 mark of the video.

The list of musicians, courtesy of Crosby: Allen, Rex Stewart (coronet); Pee Wee Herman (clarinet); Vic Dickenson (trombone); Coleman Hawkins (tenor sax); Nat Piece (piano); Danny Barker (guitar); Milt Hinton (bass) and Jo Jones (drums).

Below is Rosetta.

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Reading Music

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Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.